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Thread: .22 LR Black Powder adventure



  1. #1
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    .22 LR Black Powder adventure

    I've always wanted to step back in time and test some original .22LR black powder cartridges to see how they would have performed back in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s in a levergun. Not too long ago I came across an old 2 piece box of early .22 LR cartridges. Most all the writing on the box was gone, but I could barely make out "UMC" on the bottom edge. I pulled one of the bullets and found that they were b.p. cartridges.

    As the pic shows, the lube was dried out and there is some tarnishing of the copper case. Thankfully, they cleaned up ok. I used a toothbrush to clean off the dry lube and a bore brush to clean off the cartridge case. I then relubed with SPG.



    The test rifle was a 39A Marlin made in 1948 equipped with a tang sight and an 8X vintage Weaver scope.



    Well.......tried to fire a couple of the original UMC .22 b.p. cartridges, but click, click....priming compound is "deader than a doornail". I wasn't totally surprised, just a bit disappointed.

    So......I spent a couple of hours cleaning and pulling bullets and powder from the UMC cartridges. Thankfully the case was not crimped into the bullet heel so the heel was not distorted in the process.



    Bullet diameter .225" Weight: 40 grs.
    factory powder compression: .035"



    After loading the 4.5 grs. of the original powder into Armscor* cases, I seated the U.M.C. bullets with a Lyman H&I .225 die.

    10 loaded and ready to go


    I shot 10 of the assembled b.p. cartridges at my clubs’ 50 ft. indoor range since the weather wasn't too good outdoors at the time and I was anxious to test them.

    They worked great ....just loaded 10 in the tube of my Marlin 39A (194 and fired 2 groups of 5.



    With the earlier success at 50 feet, I next wanted to try them at 50 yards which I was able to do a few weeks later. The Temp was 50F and it was a bit breezy (10-20 mph winds) but being a bit anxious, I decided to venture forth and shoot each shot when there was a lull in the wind.

    Here are the two targets made with the 100+ year old component(s) that were loaded into Armscor* cases. I also tried 4.5 grs SWISS 4F with the UMC bullets which produced the group on the right. I was very pleased with the results. My reason for choosing SWISS is that it was the only b.p. that would not “foul out” in previous testing in the 32 Colt, 357, 44-40 and 45 Colt leverguns.



    (Later testing with Swiss Null B which is finer than 4F went very well (100 yards target below).
    Average velocity was 1,140 f.p.s.)

    The next step was to find a suitable .22 mold to enable me to produce .22 LR black powder ammunition.
    I had 3 different molds.....an early 225438 that weighed 42 grs., a new 225438 (45 grs) and a NEI 45 (45 grs.) in w.w. +2% tin alloy. In testing the old style 225438 proved to be the most accurate.



    Ideally, the gas check shank should measure .209” or so for a snug fit into the .22 LR Armscor* case. The gc shank on that bullet measures .213” which then requires the case mouths to be flared prior to the bullet being seated. The loaded round is then run nose first into a 225” H&I die to restore the o.d. of the case back to its original dimension. I would use that mold in the short term, but a new mold would make things much easier and more consistant, so I made a drawing of the UMC bullet and sent it to David Mos to have a mold made to replicate it.

    While waiting for the mold to arrive, I wanted to find out how many b.p. rounds the .22 Marlin could fire before accuracy might start to degrade using the 225438 lubed with SPG and propelled by 4.5 grs; of Swiss. So…after having shot 50 rounds of 3 different recipies (4.5 Swiss 4F, 4.5 Swiss Null B and 5.0 Swiss 4F) on Cowboy Silhouettes & other targets with no cleaning nor blow tubing, I fired rounds 51-58 (last of the cartridges) using 4.5/ Swiss Null B on this target to see if the fouling from the previous 50 rounds was having an affect on accuracy. Thankfully, it didn’t.

    I was using the tang sight in this test since scopes are not permited in NRA Cowboy Silhouette. Accuracy was about as good as the 1948 vintage 39A with a tang sight will do with target .22 ammunition and my 67 year old eyes.



    Now hopefully, that David Mos mold will arrive soon. I want to shoot b.p. in NRA Cowboy Small Bore Silhouette....just like those that have gone before us would have done if that competition was in existence 100+ years ago.

    * Armscor .22 LR primed cases were available from THE HUNTING SHACK but I do not see them listed anymore. Previously, I removed bullets and powder from loaded .22 LR ammuniton to get cases

    UPDATE.....
    The KT22LR mold finally arrived and I made some bullets. The mold and bullet pics are courtesy of "Baja Traveler" who also ordered a mold.




    I loaded them up over 4.5 gr of Swiss 4F and fired 10 rounds at 100 yards. I was very pleased with the results.


    Now to load more for the upcoming NRA Cowboy Silhouette matches this year.

    w30wcf
    Last edited by 30wcf; 09-10-2012 at 09:23 AM. Reason: updated
    Steve_In, kybob and Travlin like this.
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  2. #2
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    Re: .22 LR Black Powder adventure

    Nice work.
    "a little rebellion now and then is a good thing"
    -Thomas Jefferson 1787.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_of_Jefferson

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    Re: .22 LR Black Powder adventure

    I meant to tell you that I found this an interesting thread even though I never met anyone who loaded and/or 'reloaded' a 22lr cartridge before other than a factory made load.

    Thanks!

    Catherine
    Catherine










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    Re: .22 LR Black Powder adventure

    Maybe I'll try this.

    How much smoke is there?

    Matt

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    Re: .22 LR Black Powder adventure

    A fascinating, well-written, well-presented report!
    Very interesting results.
    I have every American Rifleman magazine made from 1929 to last month's issue, about 900 issues. Some years ago, in one of those magazines, I read that the last American copper-cased .22 rimfire ammo was made by Remington in 1948. Amazing that it was made so late, but it's a good benchmark to remember.
    I have a soup can full of old .22 rimfire cartridges, given me years ago. They're all assorted manufacturers and most oif them lost the outside lubricant years ago.
    I scrutinized them when first received, looking for particularly old cartridges for my collection, but they all seemed rather ordinary: Peters, Winchester, Federal, etc.
    One clue to the age of a rimfire case: The earliest had designs or letters that were raised above the surface of the base. I understand that, by the early 1880s, designs and letters on rimfires began to be impressed into the case, instead of raised above it. I may be wrong on this date, but from what I've observed the earliest rimfires do, indeed, have raised designs and lettering.
    Anyway, this is off-topic but I find it interesting. Others with old cartridges may benefit from the 1948 benchmark and raised vs. impressed lettering info.

    I very much enjoyed your report. Interesting that the ammo was so accurate. Though you could not use the original priming, I doubt that would have been a factor affecting accuracy.
    I particularly enjoyed the good photos, and the foresight to photograph the old powder on a grid.
    Good job.
    marco likes this.

  6. #6
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    Re: .22 LR Black Powder adventure

    Excellent.
    So interesting.
    Lends creedance to all the claims of the fantastic shooting done by the old timers backintheday when supposedly "handicapped" by black powder.
    I imagine you'd be hard pressed to find modern ammo that shoots much better groups.

  7. #7
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    Re: .22 LR Black Powder adventure

    So does anyone know where you can lay your hands on .22 cases. I've been searching since seeing this thread and have lucked out.
    Freedom is when people can speak; democracy is when the government listens.

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    Re: .22 LR Black Powder adventure

    Guys and Catherine,

    Thank you for the kind words. I'm glad that you enjoyed it. I did as well.

    Gatofeo,
    Thank you for the acknowledgement and history lesson. Interesting.

    Miller6457,
    It is somewhat noticeable but not too much. However, if there is no wind and 10 shots were fired in rapid succession, there would be a bit of a cloud......

    Mr Merde,
    http://thehuntingshack.com/ is where I found mine but, unfortunately, they are no longer listed. You could contact them and enquire if they are getting any more. Prior to finding the Armscor cases, I was removing bullets from 22 ammo to get the cases.

    w30wcf
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    Re: .22 LR Black Powder adventure

    WOW - great thread - well done, I found it very interesting.

    I didn't know .22 LR came in black powder originally, always (incorrectly) assumed it was a smokeless round.

    The smallest BP calibre I have seen here in Australia, and fired, is the .297/230 in the Francotte Cadet.
    A few members of my local BP club shoot, heck some even cast projectiles and reload the little rounds just for fun.

    Thankyou for sharing 30wcf

    That is also interesting you use 4F Swiss in your other rifles. I have a .44-40 and have been using Wano black powder in PPP (slightly finer grade that FFFg) but for accuracy at 50m I have to clean the barrel every 4th or 5th shot. I'm going to have to save up ($90-$120 a kg) and buy a container of Swiss 4F and try it (if I can find some)
    1895SS - .45/70 the original One Hit Wonder!

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  10. #10
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    Re: .22 LR Black Powder adventure

    HotShot2,
    Thank you for your interest and acknowledgement. The .22LR was first loaded with b.p. when it was introduced in 1888 and for the next 10 years or so when the first semi-smokeless was used followed by smokeless. I believe all three were offered until the late 1920's after which only semi-smokeless and smokeless were factory offered. Semi-smokeless continued on for another 10 years or so and by WWII only smokeless remained.

    Regarding the 44-40, I would strongly recommend SWISS 2FG. 36.0 grs by weight will deliver 1,300 f.p.s. with fine accuracy for many rounds - 50+ with no loss of accuracy with a 2 groove bullet filled with SPG.

    SWISS 3FG was a bit too warm producing velocities in the low 1,400 f.p.s. (!) range which is 10% faster than the original 44-40 b.p. round. Swiss 4F would be hotter still so it definitely should not be used in the 44-40.

    w30wcf
    aka w44wcf (black powder)
    aka Jack Christian SASS 11993 "I can do all things through Christ who strenghtens me." Philippians 4:13
    aka John Kort
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